The future of smart packaging reducing food waste

smart packaging for food

Recent studies have shown that almost 50% of food produced globally will end up as waste before it even reaches its destination.  At some point during the supply chain, its deemed unfit for consumption.  A major factor that contributes to this huge amount of loss is put down to not having smart packaging. Losses this large also have an impact on the energy needed to produce, store and transport foods.

In recent years there has been a change towards customers driven by convenience when it comes to the food they buy.  There also seems to have been a decline in people preparing and cooking meals at home, favouring pre-packaged meals, takeaways or dining in restaurants.  These changes in how people consume food have seen a need for innovation in packaging solutions to extend food shelf life and cut down on waste. With these changes and more explored in the future, it’s estimated that the amount of food waste can be reduced by 280,000 tons.

A slippery solution

With many governments world-wide legislating for reductions in unsustainable packaging, it’s a crucial time for technological advances and innovative solutions to be developed.  One example of these advances is the creation of a super slippery industrial packaging. The process uses compatible vegetable oils that are baked into the surfaces of the plastic packaging which then allows sticky foods to be easily taken out with minimal waste.  No more banging the bottom of the ketchup bottle to try and get the last drops out! 

While it seems like a small amount if you look at it on a global scale a shift like this could save a huge amount of food that would otherwise end up as waste.

Previously this technology had been used with silicones and polymers, which are quite expensive, making them a costly option for many.  But now the new experiments using more cost-effective materials are compatible with less expensive and readily available plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene.  Another benefit of using these plastics is that they are recyclable which makes them a great sustainable packaging solution.

This new super slippery packaging has uses beyond food storage and packaging.  The slippery surface makes the packaging self-cleaning which extends its usage to the pharmaceutical and health care industries.  Scientists are exploring the use of natural oils that also have bacteria resisting properties.

Packaging of the future

There are a lot more trends in packaging that we will see developing in the future having a big impact on minimizing food wastage.

  • Active packaging is being designed to maintain foods for longer periods by creating a hostile environment for the microorganisms that cause food to decay and spoil.
  • Vacuum Packaging is not only great for space-saving but by removing the oxygen from the food environment it makes it less habitable for microorganisms.  This will help keep meat from oxidizing as well as prevent things like dehydration and freezer burn.
  • Modified Atmosphere Packaging is a similar technique to vacuum packing, but it packages the food with a unique combination of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen gasses which helps preserve the food.  The concentration of gasses can be modified specifically for each food type to deliver optimum results.
  • Intelligent Packaging uses a patch of ‘smart plastic’ that changes colour as the conditions surrounding the food change.  It’s a visual aid for consumers to see how long a package has been opened, and an easy guide to tell if your food is still safe to consume.  By being able to monitor the actual food condition it’s a lot more accurate than the current ‘best by date’ system that is currently used. It can also be used during food transport to safely monitor the food in different conditions and minimize the amount of food that is thrown away unnecessarily. 
  • Snap-Pack Packaging allows customers to use portions of packaged products as needed and leave the rest of the product safely sealed for later use.  

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Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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